What might have seemed like innocuous comments Miami Dolphins owner Steve Ross made about the league’s interest in expanding the regular season to 18 games, were anything but to NFL players.
Speaking at the SportsBusiness Journal’s Sports Media & Technology conference in New York this week, Ross said fans dislike paying for preseason games and that two preseason games – rather than four – should be enough combined with practices and scrimmages for coaches to analyze talent. But perhaps most irksome to players were his comments about injuries.
“They’ve done studies … the additional games, the studies show will not really increase injuries,” Ross said. “We’re still playing 20 games. We’re eliminating two preseason games and adding two regular season games, which is really what helps with the revenues, and make the fans a lot happier and those games will be a lot more meaningful. But in terms of the players, they’re still playing 20 games.”
George Atallah, assistant executive director of external affairs for the NFL Players Association, took to his Twitter account shortly after Ross’ comments to remind that two Dolphins quarterbacks – Chad Pennington and Chad Henne – were injured in Sunday’s game against the Tennessee Titans.
“An NFL owner that lost 2 QBs in 1 game says adding 2 games won't increase injuries. Only way to find out is to get the data,” Atallah said on Twitter.
Then he added: “Mr. Ross: this is the kind of statement that drives players crazy. Every game is a risk of injury and you lost both QBs in 1 game.”
Atallah told me players are disappointed in Ross’ comments. The union submitted a proposal on the 18-game season to the owners about three weeks ago and has yet to hear back. The proposal suggests expanding rosters, having two in-season bye weeks and other items. It also requests data on injuries and how the additional revenues would be shared with players.
"We marvel, pay for and cheer for what NFL players do during games. But they are not a 'product' like a car,” Atallah said. “Owners wouldn't like it if players were dismissive of their abundant financial risks. Why are they being dismissive of the people that take on the real risk?"
The union is not trying to slow the process for a new collective bargaining agreement between owners and players, but wants additional information before agreeing to lengthening the season.